By Marsha Bartulec – Erie, Colorado … Third and fourth graders at Vista Ridge Academy finished studying the story of Ruth in their Bible class based on the Encounter Elementary Curriculum. The learning objectives for the unit included becoming familiar with the biblical story of Ruth; understanding the ideas of hospitality, loyalty and caring for others, and introducing the agricultural way of life that was prevalent in Ruth’s time: the planting, harvesting, and use of wheat for food.
Rebecca Murdock, the 3rd and 4th, 5th and 6th grade Bible teacher, started the unit by giving everyone a little bag of wheat berries, watching a video on how wheat was historically harvested, and then giving students the opportunity to “grind” the wheat berries into “wheat flour” at little stations around the classroom. The students soon realized how long it takes to grind flour, and how long it must take to plant and harvest it. They could not imagine waiting that long to make something like bread or flour cakes, or something else that Ruth’s family probably ate.
At the end of each unit is a celebration of the unit’s completion. Rebecca thought baking bread with the students would be a fun application. When Rebecca mentioned this to Wanda Hart, the school office manager, Wanda told her about a bread-in-a-bag recipe she had done with VBS kids that was a success.
“I wanted Rebecca to finish the unit with something that would make the kids feel accomplished which they could take home with them after the work they put into it,” said Wanda.
Together, they planned the bread-in-a-bag activity. They bought the ingredients, prepared ingredient bags for each of the students, and walked them through the process in class. Each student had their own zip-lock bag which they filled with ingredients, then mixed and kneaded the dough. After class, teachers let the dough rise, baked it, and showed the students pictures of the process before handing out their beautifully-baked mini-bread loaves.
“I was pleasantly surprised at how attentive students were. They wanted to make sure they did everything correctly in order not to wreck the bread. They asked a lot of questions and were pretty dedicated to kneading the bread for the full amount of time required,” said Rebecca.
At the end of the activity, a couple students said this was their “favorite Bible class we have ever done.” And one said they wanted “to do stuff like this all the time”.
Rebecca appreciated Wanda’s suggestion and posted the bread-in-a-bag recipe on the Encounter Elementary Curriculum Facebook group page so that other teachers could use the idea for this unit. “A few teachers responded they are going to try this activity with their class, so I’m excited to hear how it goes for them as well,” she explained.
For the next unit, third and fourth graders are learning about religion. Students will be able to answer the questions, “What is religion?”, “Are there other religions and which religions do our families come from?” This unit will allow students to identify their personal beliefs at this point in their lives.
–Marsha Bartulec is the vice principal of administration at Vista Ridge Academy. Photos by Rebecca Murdock.